Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds 1933-

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NAYLOR, Phyllis Reynolds 1933-

PERSONAL: Born January 4, 1933, in Anderson, IN; daughter of Eugene S. and Lura (Schield) Reynolds; married Thomas A. Tedesco, Jr., September 9, 1951 (divorced, 1960); married Rex V. Naylor (a speech pathologist), May 26, 1960; children: Jeffrey Alan, Michael Scott. Education: Joliet Junior College, diploma, 1953; American University, B.A., 1963. Politics: Independent. Religion: Unitarian Universalist. Hobbies and other interests: Music, drama, hiking, swimming.

ADDRESSES: Home—9910 Holmhurst Rd., Bethesda, MD 20817.

CAREER: Billings Hospital, Chicago, IL, clinical secretary, 1953-56; elementary school teacher in Hazel Crest, IL, 1956; Montgomery County Education Association, Rockville, MD, assistant executive secretary, 1958-59; National Education Association, Washington, DC, editorial assistant with NEA Journal, 1959-60; full-time writer, 1960—. Active in civil rights and peace organizations.

MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers, Authors Guild, PEN, Authors League of America, Children's Book Guild of Washington (president, 1974-75, 1983-84).

AWARDS, HONORS: Children's Book of the Year, Child Study Association of America, 1971, for Wrestle the Mountain; Golden Kite Award for nonfiction, Society of Children's Book Authors, 1978, and International Reading Association (IRA) Children's Choice citation, 1979, both for How I Came to Be a Writer; IRA Children's Choice citation, 1980, for How Lazy Can You Get?; American Library Association (ALA) Young Adult Services Division (YASD) Best Book for Young Adults citation and Notable Children's Book in the Field of Social Studies citation from National Council for Social Studies, both 1982, and South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, 1985-86, all for A String of Chances; Child Study Award, Bank Street College, 1983, for The Solomon System; ALA Notable Book citation, 1985, and IRA Children's Choice Citation, 1986, both for The Agony of Alice; Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1985, for Night Cry; Notable Children's Book in the Field of Social Studies citation, 1985, for The Dark of the Tunnel; ALA YASD Best Book for Young Adults Citation, 1986, for The Keeper; creative writing fellowship, grant, National Endowment for the Arts, 1987; ALA YASD Best Book for Young Adults citation, 1987, and Best Young Adult Book of the Year from Michigan Library Association, 1988, both for Year of the Gopher; Society of School Librarians International Book Award, 1988, for Maudie in the Middle; Christopher Award from the Christophers, 1989, for Keeping a Christmas Secret; ALA Notable Book for Young Adults Citation, 1989, for Send No Blessings; John Newbery Medal from Association for Library Service to Children, 1992, for Shiloh; Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, 1993; Kerlan Award, University of Minnesota Kerlan Collection, 1995, for Naylor's body of work; Appalachian Medallion, University of Charleston, 1997, for distinguished writing.


Crazy Love: An Autobiographical Account of Marriage and Madness (nonfiction), Morrow (New York, NY), 1977.

In Small Doses (humorous fiction), Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.

Revelations (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1979.

Unexpected Pleasures (fiction), Putnam (New York, NY), 1986.

The Craft of Writing the Novel (nonfiction), Writer (Boston, MA), 1989.


How to Find Your Wonderful Someone, How to Keep Him/Her If You Do, How to Survive If You Don't, Fortress (Philadelphia, PA), 1972.

An Amish Family, illustrated by George Armstrong, J. Philip O'Hara (Merrick, NY), 1974.

Getting Along in Your Family, illustrated by Rick Cooley, Abingdon (Nashville, TN), 1976.

How I Came to Be a Writer, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1978, 3rd revised edition, Aladdin Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Getting Along with Your Friends, illustrated by Rick Cooley, Abingdon (Nashville, TN), 1980.

Getting Along with Your Teachers, illustrated by Rick Cooley, Abingdon (Nashville, TN), 1981.


The Galloping Goat and Other Stories (short stories), illustrated by Robert L. Jefferson, Abingdon (Nashville, TN), 1965.

Grasshoppers in the Soup: Short Stories for Teenagers, Fortress (Philadelphia, PA), 1965.

Knee Deep in Ice Cream and Other Stories (short stories), Fortress (Philadelphia, PA), 1967.

What the Gulls Were Singing, illustrated by Jack Smith, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1967.

Jennifer Jean, the Cross-Eyed Queen, illustrated by Harold K. Lamson, Lerner (Minneapolis, MN), 1967.

To Shake a Shadow, Abingdon (Nashville, TN), 1967.

The New Schoolmaster, illustrated by Mamoru Funai, Silver Burdett (Morristown, NJ), 1967.

A New Year's Surprise, illustrated by Jack Endewelt, Silver Burdett (Morristown, NJ), 1967.

When Rivers Meet, Friendship (New York, NY), 1968.

The Dark Side of the Moon (short stories), Fortress (Philadelphia, PA), 1969.

Meet Murdock, illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1969.

To Make a Wee Moon, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1969.

The Private I and Other Stories (short stories), Fortress (Philadelphia, PA), 1969.

Making It Happen, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1970.

Ships in the Night, Fortress (Philadelphia, PA), 1970.

Wrestle the Mountain, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1971.

No Easy Circle, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1972.

To Walk the Sky Path, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1973.

Walking through the Dark, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1976.

How Lazy Can You Get?, illustrated by Alan Daniel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.

A Change in the Wind, Augsburg Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1980.

Eddie, Incorporated, illustrated by Blanche Sims, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1980.

All Because I'm Older, illustrated by Leslie Morrill, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1981.

The Boy with the Helium Head, illustrated by Kay Chorao, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1982.

A String of Chances, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1982.

Never Born a Hero, Augsburg Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1982.

The Solomon System, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983.

A Triangle Has Four Sides, Augsburg Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1984.

Night Cry, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.

Old Sadie and the Christmas Bear, illustrated by Patricia Montgomery, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.

The Dark of the Tunnel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1985.

The Keeper, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1986.

The Baby, the Bed, and the Rose, illustrated by Mary Stilagyi, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1987.

The Year of the Gopher, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1987.

Beetles, Lightly Toasted, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1987.

(With Lura Schield Reynolds) Maudie in the Middle, illustrated by Judith Gwyn Brown, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988.

One of the Third Grade Thonkers, illustrated by Walter Gaffney-Kessell, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988.

Keeping a Christmas Secret, illustrated by Lena Shiffman, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.

Send No Blessings, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.

King of the Playground, illustrated by Nola Langner, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1991.

Josie's Troubles, illustrated by Josie Matheis, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1992.

The Boys Start the War, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.

The Girls Get Even (sequel to The Boys Start the War), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.

The Grand Escape, illustrated by Alan Daniel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

Boys against Girls (sequel to The Girls Get Even), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.

The Fear Place, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1994.

Being Danny's Dog, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1995.

Ducks Disappearing, illustrated by Tony Maddox, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1996.

Ice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1996.

I Can't Take You Anywhere, illustrated by Jef Kaminsky, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1997.

The Healing of Texas Jake, illustrated by Alan Daniel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1997.

Danny's Desert Rats, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.

The Girls' Revenge, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1998.

Sang Spell, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.

Sweet Strawberries, illustrated by Rosalind Charney, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1999.

A Traitor among the Boys, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1999.

Walker's Crossing, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1999.

Carlotta's Kittens and the Club of Mysteries, illustrated by Alan Daniel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

Jade Green, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

A Spy among the Girls, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2000.

The Boys Return, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2001.

The Great Chicken Debacle, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2001.

Bernie Magruder and the Case of the Big Stink, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 2001.

Percy's Picnic, illustrated by Ana Escriva Lopez, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.

Blizzard's Wake, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.

The Girls Take Over, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2002.

Bernie Magruder and the Bats in the Belfry, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.


Witch's Sister, illustrated by Gail Owens, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1975.

Witch Water, illustrated by Gail Owens, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1977.

The Witch Herself, illustrated by Gail Owens, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1978.


The Witch's Eye, illustrated by Joe Burleson, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1990.

Witch Weed, illustrated by Joe Burleson, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1991.

The Witch Returns, illustrated by Joe Burleson, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1992.


Shadows on the Wall, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1980.

Faces in the Water, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1981.

Footprints at the Window, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1981.


The Mad Gasser of Bessledorf Street, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983.

The Bodies in the Bessledorf Hotel, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1986.

Bernie and the Bessledorf Ghost, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1990.

The Face in the Bessledorf Funeral Parlor, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

The Bomb in the Bessledorf Bus Depot, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1996.

The Treasure of Bessledorf Hill, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1997.

Peril in the Bessledorf Parachute Factory, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1999.


The Agony of Alice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1985.

Alice in Rapture, Sort Of, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.

Reluctantly Alice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.

All but Alice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1992.

Alice in April, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

Alice In-Between, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1994.

Alice the Brave, Atheneum, 1995.

Alice in Lace, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1996.

Outrageously Alice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1997.

Achingly Alice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1998.

Alice on the Outside, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1999.

The Grooming of Alice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.

Alice Alone, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.

Simply Alice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.

Starting with Alice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.

Patiently Alice, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.


Shiloh, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1991.

Shiloh Season, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1996.

Saving Shiloh, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1997.

ADAPTATIONS: Sound recordings by the American Prose Library have been made of Naylor reading from her own works; excerpts from The Agony of Alice, and The Keeper were released on one cassette in 1987, and excerpts from Unexpected Pleasures were released on another cassette in the same year. An interview with Naylor by Kay Bonetti was released as a sound recording by American Audio Prose Library in 1987. Audio recordings of Shiloh, and Shiloh Season, were released by Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing in 1992 and 1997, respectively; Shiloh Season was adapted as a videotape. Unabridged sound recordings were made of Alice the Brave and Fear Place, in 1996 by Recorded Books; The Keeper was adapted into the ABC Afterschool Special "My Dad Can't Be Crazy"; Shiloh was adapted into a feature film and released in 1997.

SIDELIGHTS: Phyllis Naylor's extensive output of novels for children and young adults displays great diversity of subject and tone. She has dealt with many serious issues—mental illness in The Keeper, crib death and a crisis of faith in A String of Chances, and difficult moral choices in Shiloh. Her body of work, however, also includes the comic mysteries of the "Bessledorf" series, the supernatural tales of the "Witch" trilogies, and a broad range of other stories. Additionally, she has written nonfiction for young people; her subjects here include writing as a career and advice on relationships. Her work for adults likewise comprises fiction and nonfiction; among the latter is an account of her troubled first marriage to a paranoid schizophrenic.

Several critics have praised Naylor as an author who creates believable and sympathetic characters in stories that appeal to young readers. "Prolific and talented children's writer Phyllis Reynolds Naylor does more than understand the adolescent heart—she eloquently expresses it in all its bittersweet complexity," observed Linda Barrett Osborne in a Washington Post Book World review of two of Naylor's novels, Ice and Being Danny's Dog. "Poised between childhood and adulthood, her young characters survive loss, discover strength in crisis, and meet the challenges of 'broken' homes and bruised psyches with honesty, humor and determination."

Naylor has featured single-parent families in a number of her juvenile novels. The protagonists of Ice and Being Danny's Dog both have absent fathers; the main character in Naylor's "Alice" series is a girl coping with adolescence after her mother's death. The Agony of Alice, the first of the series, finds Alice longing for a woman's guidance as she enters puberty; subsequent entries show her falling in love for the first time, learning about adult responsibilities, sticking up for a gay friend, and contending with all the ups and downs of her teenage years. Critiquing The Agony of Alice for School Library Journal, Caroline Ward Romans commented that Naylor "exhibits a deft touch at capturing the essence of an endearing heroine growing up without a mother." In Booklist, Hazel Rochman called the novel "a wonderfully funny and touching story that will make readers smile with wry recognition." Naylor has stated that she intends to carry the "Alice" series through the protagonist's eighteenth year. She has also started a series of prequels to the other Alice books; the 2002 book Starting with Alice shows readers what Alice was like in third grade. A Kirkus Reviews critic predicted that "this cheerful addition will find a ready audience among the younger siblings of Alice fans as well as the devoted older fans themselves."

In a different vein is the "Bessledorf" series, which centers on a young boy, Bernie Magruder, whose father manages the Bessledorf Hotel in Middleburg, Indiana. The hotel is the scene of many humorous mysteries; for instance, the second book in the series, The Bodies in the Bessledorf Hotel, deals with corpses that unexpectedly appear and disappear at the hostelry. "The subject of bodies, which I feared might be a bit touchy, is treated comically," noted Washington Post Book World contributor Carolyn Banks, who went on to praise the deadpan humor of the book's opening dialogue between Bernie and a police officer. Critics have sometimes found the series's comedic topics inappropriate or distasteful, though. School Library Journal reviewer John Sigwald called The Bomb in the Bessledorf Bus Depot "unfortunately untimely," given real-life tragedies; he noted that "unlike the real world, in Naylor's cartoon creation nobody ever gets hurt." Peril in the Bessledorf Parachute Factory, which became available in 2000, faired slightly better. The installment, in which Bernie tries to marry off his sister Delores in order to have her room, prompted Catherine Andronik to remark in Booklist that "the humor is right on target for middle-graders."

Naylor entered the Gothic realm in the "Witch" trilogies, about a young girl who suspects others of witchcraft. Witch Water, the second volume of the first trilogy, "presents with total believability the delicate, potentially volatile balance which exists in the sensitive heroine's mind between her world of escapist fantasy and her actual situation in ordinary reality," commented Sharon Leder in a review for The Lion and the Unicorn. Another venture by Naylor into the supernatural was the "York" trilogy, concerning a young man whose travels through time help him come to terms with his fears about a disease than runs in his family. In 1998's Sang Spell, a teenager who has just lost his mother in a car crash decides to hitchhike and is accidentally transported to a town in the Appalachian mountains where time seems to have stopped. John Peters, reviewing the novel in Booklist, praised it as "a masterfully crafted tale of mystery, magic, and madness."

Naylor has received numerous awards and substantial acclaim for serious, issue-oriented works. In The Keeper, an adolescent boy tries to live a normal life while grappling with his father's mental illness. Naylor's inspiration for the book came after she had published Crazy Love: An Autobiographical Account of Marriage and Madness, dealing with her first husband's schizophrenia and its effect on their relationship. "I began to think, hey, if I couldn't cope with this as a twenty-three-year-old woman, how would a thirteen-year-old boy handle it?" Naylor said in an interview for the American Audio Prose Library. Her exploration of this situation brought several favorable reviews. "This is a sensitively wrought novel with no happy ending but certainly with an affirmation of individual strength and emotional survival in the face of adversity," Denise M. Wilms wrote in Booklist.

Naylor has explored a variety of other difficult issues. A String of Chances focuses on a young girl, daughter of a fundamentalist minister, who finds her faith shaken after a cousin's baby dies. Booklist contributor Sally Estes found the characters well drawn and the situations absorbing. "Specific scenes and themes . . . all smoothly converge and interlock," she noted. "The effect is totally involving and moving." The Dark of the Tunnel tells the story of a teenage boy whose mother is dying of cancer; John R. Lord, reviewing for Voice of Youth Advocates, called the book "one of the best adolescent novels dealing with death I have ever read." In Booklist, however, Stephanie Zvirin called the story "heavy-handed and uneven," although featuring "some genuine flashes of insight and emotion." Walker's Crossing, one of Naylor's 1999 efforts, tackles the issue of right-wing militia movements. "What's daring," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "about Naylor's approach is that Ryan [the protagonist] doesn't automatically reject the group's doctrines....The issues and the characters are developed fairly."

Moral questions are at the center of Shiloh, for which Naylor received the John Newbery Medal, the most prestigious American award in children's literature. Marty, a young West Virginia boy, takes in a dog that has run away from an abusive master. He wants to protect the dog, but feels guilty about not returning it to its owner, and about the lies he tells to deal with the situation; he tries to figure out the right thing to do. "Without breaking new ground, Marty's tale is well told," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor, who described the book as "heartwarming." At least one critic, though, had a quibble with its selection for the Newbery award. "Surely there must have been a book more important than this agreeable but slight story," Jane Langton wrote in the New York Times Book Review. Langton pronounced Shiloh "a good book, not a great book." Naylor also penned two follow-ups to ShilohShiloh Season and Saving Shiloh. The latter tale features the reformation of Shiloh's original abusive owner.

Naylor's other works have exhibited great variety, from the comedy of Beetles, Lightly Toasted, about a boy who comes up with insect-based recipes in an effort to win a contest, to the nostalgia of Maudie in the Middle, concerning an early-twentieth-century girl, a middle child, seeking to distinguish herself in her family. The latter was inspired by the experiences of Naylor's mother, Lura Schield Reynolds, who is credited as couthor of the book.

Naylor has said many of her story ideas and characters have come from her relatives, as well as from her desire to live someone else's life for a while. "And so, because I want to know what it would be like to be a preacher or a bicycle courier or a motherless twelve-year-old or a bridge worker, I write," she noted in the Something about the Author Autobiography Series. She apparently has no shortage of ideas; in How I Came to Be a Writer, she commented, "On my deathbed, I am sure, I will gasp, 'I still have five more books to write!'"



Children's Literature Review, Volume 17, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.

Naylor, Phyllis, Crazy Love: An Autobiographical Account of Marriage and Madness, Morrow (New York, NY), 1977.

Naylor, Phyllis, How I Came to Be a Writer, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1978, revised edition, Aladdin Books (New York, NY), 1987.

Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 10, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.


Booklist, August, 1982, Sally Estes, review of A String of Chances, p. 1518; March 15, 1985, pp. 1051-52; October 1, 1985, pp. 264-65; April 1, 1986, Denise M. Wilms, review of The Keeper, p. 1144; September 15, 1998, John Peters, review of Sang Spell, p. 228; May 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, "Alice, Still Outrageous," p. 1586; January 1, 2000, Catherine Andronik, review of Peril in the Bessledorf Parachute Factory, p. 926.

Chicago Tribune, January 28, 1992, section 1, p. 16.

Chicago Tribune Book World, March 2, 1986.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of Starting with Alice, p. 1039.

Lion and the Unicorn, fall, 1977, pp. 1111-1115.

Los Angeles Times, November 1, 1986.

New York Times Book Review, December 2, 1979; November 2, 1986, Edwin J. Kennedy, Jr., review of Unexpected Pleasures, p. 21; May 10, 1992, Jane Langton, review of Shiloh, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1991, review of Shiloh, pp. 66-67; August 17, 1992, review of Josie's Troubles, p. 501; October 17, 1994, review of The Fear Place, p. 82; March 4, 1996, p. 67; September 20, 1999, review of Walker's Crossing, p. 88.

Quill and Quire, January, 1996, p. 45.

School Library Journal, January, 1986, Caroline Ward Romans, review of The Agony of Alice, p. 70; May, 1996, John Sigwald, review of The Bomb in the Bessledorf Bus Depot, p. 114.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1985, p. 188.

Washington Post, January 28, 1992, David Streitfeld, "The Beagle and the Bethesda Author's Prize; Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Wins Newbery Medal for Shiloh," section E, p. 1.

Washington Post Book World, September 12, 1982; November 6, 1983; November 8, 1983; June 9, 1985; March 9, 1986; May 11, 1986; November 25, 1986; December 14, 1986, p. 8; May 10, 1987; January 7, 1996, p. 10.

Washington Post Magazine, August 13, 1995, p. 14.


Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Web site, (October 8, 2002), "Featured Author: Phyllis Naylor."

Kidspace@The Internet Public Library, (October 8, 2002), "Phyllis Naylor Web Page."


Phyllis Naylor Interview with Kay Bonetti (sound recording), American Audio Prose Library (Columbia, MO), 1987.*

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Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds 1933-

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